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Would You Use Donated Breast Milk?

By Danielle |

Photo Credit : istockphoto.com

With all the breast vs. bottle debate in our society, and among our mothering circles today, a new debate over donated breast milk has emerged onto center stage.

While it is nothing new that breast milk is considered best for babies, there are mothers out there who cannot produce milk, or may have a medical condition in which their breast milk may not be safe for their baby. Then there is children maybe not being able to handle breast milk like I went through with my second son.

In recent months I have seen this debated on public forums, and in most cases described as gross, or disgusting with some mothers going as far as calling it unsanitary. But a recent news article out of Connecticut shows donor breast milk the norm for babies in one of Connecticut’s leading children hospitals.

NBC Connecticut reported yesterday about a local mother of twins, born prematurely and their ability to thrive on donated breast milk through a program at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. The program aimed at premature babies provides donated breast milk to all premature infants born before 32 weeks gestation, or weighing less than four pounds at birth.

Contrary to popular belief that this milk could carry disease, and other issues that would make the process unsanitary, the milk goes through a screening and pasteurization process which eliminates the chance of disease.

The article details :

“The donors are screened the same way as someone who would be donating blood or donating an organ.  So they’re screened for all the viruses and lifestyle  issues and drug use and things that would make you worry about using this milk,” said Dr. Kathleen Marinelli, a neonatologist at the medical center, and the medical director of the New England Breast Milk Bank outside of Boston. “It helps mature their GI tract. It has immune factors in it. It has live cells in it. It has all types of things that help them mature and develop in ways they otherwise wouldn’t have having come out of mom’s womb early,” she said.

As someone who has personally donated breast milk to a family member, I stand behind the importance and safety in the process, but could understand why others would be skeptical.

Would you use donated breast milk for your child?

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About Danielle

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Danielle

Danielle Elwood is a straight-shooting Florida based mom of three and emerging indie author. Read bio and latest posts → Read Danielle's latest posts →

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41 thoughts on “Would You Use Donated Breast Milk?

  1. Low Supply says:

    Yes I would accept donor milk. I donated milk to a twitter friend, too.

  2. Marie-Eve says:

    Yes.

  3. Tina says:

    I’d have to be in that situation to know for sure, but I think donated breastmilk is a wonderful thing! Even with the minimal “risks” it’s got to be better than someone’s best guess at what a decent, chemical imitation might be.

    Though I’m curious as to the pasteurization process. Wouldn’t that kill the live organisms that make breatmilk so good? I mean, isn’t the point of pasteurization to kill anything living in it?

  4. Kayla says:

    I would use donated breastmilk for my baby, but only if it were NOT pasturized! The process of pasturizing the milk undoes a lot of the benefits of using the milk. Raw Goats milk (which used to be called orphan milk) would be my second choice.

  5. Casey says:

    Absolutely. MY SIL & I have babies on the same day, and my son received her milk via bottle a few times. Better than formula by a long shot!

  6. Mary-Rose says:

    yes! I have and do… it was donated by friends who have oversupply (to counterbalance my undersupply). But, including me, my baby has had milk from 4 mamas, and we love them all!

  7. bob says:

    Pasteurization kills organisms, good and bad. The bad ones have the potential of killing your baby. They also reduce the shelf-life of the milk. Milk can be contaminated by contact with unclean skin, pumping machines or containers. If you know your donors, then you might feel confident about their cleaning and storing practices, and their diet, personal health and lifestyle. Anonymous donors are anonymous and screening is imperfect, as it is with blood.

  8. Sarah B says:

    Absolutely! Formula is a last resort for me so in the event that I was not able to breastfeed or pump for my child, donor milk would be my next option. I would most likely use an organization like Milk Share since I believe most milk banks limit who they give milk to (ie: preemies) so it seems like it would be slightly easier to obtain that way.

    I guess I just trust that any mother who would take the time and effort to do everything that donating milk entails probably isn’t someone who is out to hurt my child. Most mothers who donate are also breastfeeding their own children which they wouldn’t be doing if something in their milk was harmful. Also, as far as I know these moms aren’t really profiting off of the milk that they donate. I’ve heard of recipients paying shipping costs (which is only fair), giving the mom some storage bags, or in some cases a small cash donation, but that’s about it. So there is really no motivation for someone to do this for anything other than trying to help get another baby breastmilk.

    I personally plan to donate milk as soon as my baby is born in November/December. I had oversupply with my daughter and I respond beautifully to a pump. I had so much milk stashed up in my freezer at one point that I was giving my daughter bottles just for the sake of not throwing it out. I didn’t know about Milk Share at the time and couldn’t find a bank willing to take it because I hadn’t gone through their screening process prior to pumping it.

  9. Samantha says:

    Nope. Formula works just fine.

  10. Manjari says:

    I don’t understand why people think giving their kids donated breast milk is so gross, but have no problem with cow’s milk. So milk from an unknown human is just icky, but milk from an unknown animal is fine?

  11. Samantha says:

    Well. Maybe not so hard to understand. I think eating unknown animals is delicious, but am really not too keen on the idea of eating humans.

  12. EmilyH says:

    I absolutely would, and I’d also love to donate if I end up with an oversupply. Breastmilk has so many benefits, ESPECIALLY to premature infants. I think breastmilk (either donated or from the baby’s mom) should be the norm for preemies everywhere.
    And I agree with a previous commenter–why do people get skeeved out about giving their child someone else’s breastmilk, yet giving your child milk from a bunch of random cows is fine?? I’m not trying to knock formula–I just don’t follow the logic behind being “grossed out” by donor milk. At least it comes from our own species.

  13. Manjari says:

    Good point, Samantha. I do think milk is different, because humans and animals drink from their mothers in infancy and many eat other animals.

  14. bob says:

    Humans tend to wander off the pasture to smoke and drink beer.

  15. Aimee C says:

    I have, and still do, use donated breast milk. I know all of the donors (there are 4 of them) personally, and know how they take care of themselves. My daughter is 6 months old and in spite of me having a low supply has never had formula. Furthermore, she has also never been sick, and I attribute it to all the yummy immunities she gets from her milk mamas!

  16. PlumbLucky says:

    Not sure about an anonymous donor…but two of my sisters and I have children roughly the same age and we have cross nursed on occassion when there was reason (example: I was away during a feeding and the bottle of expressed milk got dropped and went all over our parents’ kitchen floor…my sisters who were there did a quick check to see who “had” to nurse next, and the sister with the older child took my son and nursed him) Then again, we (meaning sisters and I) tend to make enough milk for a small state’s worth of babes, it seems.

  17. Laure68 says:

    I don’t think it is gross at all. However, I would insist on it being pasteurized, for all the reasons that bob already mentioned. Even if the donor is properly screened, the milk has to be stored and shipped which allows room for it to become contaminated, which is very dangerous for an infant.

    It would be interesting to see if donated milk would result in better outcomes for a baby than formula. I remember a lactation consultant telling me that what makes breastmilk so special is that it is made by you especially for your baby. I don’t know whether she had any evidence of this or was just saying something.

  18. Taylor says:

    I would definitely accept donated breast milk should the need arise, but I would prefer that it come unpasteurized from a donor I know.

  19. Lynda says:

    I did use donated breastmilk for my second child. I would do it again in a heartbeat! I have insufficient glandular tissue and was SO very thankful for the amount of combined breastmilk my second son got from me and the donor mom.

  20. Sarah Bre says:

    I absolutely would.

  21. Lindsey says:

    I absolutely wouldn’t, for bob’s reason and that I think it’s a little strange.

  22. lem says:

    Comments Yes, although I have such an oversupply that it has never been an issue. I would also breastfeed another woman’s baby with out question, if there was a need and the mommy (and baby) consented.

  23. susan says:

    i can’t help but think of it as kind of gross. but then, i didn’t enjoy nursing my first son. breastfeeding may be best for babies, but oh, god, i hated it. so, bottom line: ew.

  24. dewi says:

    I would not take milk informally from a stranger.
    If you receive the milk by prescription from a milk bank it’s no different then receiving blood from a blood bank.
    Same screening, precautions and protocals are used.

  25. Linda says:

    I’ve accepted donated milk, donated milk to others, nursed other people’s babies, and had other people nurse mine. My infants were (are) humans, not calves.

  26. april says:

    I have used donor milk and I’ve donated too. Anything is better than formula IMO!

  27. mbaker says:

    Where can I get information for storing pumped milk for donation? Last time I had a big oversupply and wanted to donate the leftover milk once my son was weaned but wasn’t sure how to do that. I’m pregnant again and it I have the same issue I don’t want the pumped milk to go to waste especially if it can help someone.

  28. Joy says:

    If I could not breastfeed for a medical reason, I would seek out donor milk for my child. Research shows it to be a much better alternative than formula, a significantly inferior breast-milk substitute.

  29. christine says:

    Comments
    nope- i wouldn’t use donated breast milk

  30. Suellen says:

    I would not hesitate to use donated breastmilk for my child, although I was blessed with an abundant milk supply and never needed to supplement. I work regularly with premature babies, and much research shows the importance of breastmilk for human babies’ well-being, whether premature or not. When a mom does not provide her own milk, for whatever reason, pasteurized donor human milk (once mom’s consent is obtained) is the second choice in almost all situations – it can truly be life-saving! For those who would like more information on donating breastmilk to a milk bank, contact the Human MIlk Banking Association of North America at http://www.hmbana.org/ .

  31. SPICYRUNNER says:

    Comments No, but I would (and did) let friends nurse my infant.

  32. Rosana says:

    I would nurse other peoples’ babies but will not let anybody nurse mine.

  33. Judi says:

    Yes, I’d use it if I needed it. I’ve donated breast milk to a bank and also to an adopted drug-exposed infant. It is certainly better than the alternative.

  34. Jane Blackmore says:

    I donate breast milk currently and would have no issues using another mothers if i couldn’t feed her myself. I have nothing against formula in fact my first two babies were formula fed but in retrospect i wish donated milk had been an option.

  35. Kylie says:

    My baby was born at 27 weeks, formula would have been dangerous for his stomach, I was fortunate that I was able to produce milk straight away but many preemie mums can’t. I wouldn’t have had a problem, and if I had had an oversupply would have donated myself.

  36. Vanessa says:

    I was so grateful for the option of using donated breast milk when my daughter was in the Special Care Baby Unit right after she was being born. Against my wishes, they gave her formula (through a tube), which she threw up. No one had initially mentioned I have the option of using donated human breast milk. I overheard one of the nurses saying it and inquired. I added my few drops of colostrum to the donated breast milk and she had that for two days until my milk came in. I am in deep appreciation of the stranger who donated her milk so my little one could grow. I would rather my child get milk from a human stranger than from a bovine stranger!

  37. Vanessa says:

    To add to my comment above, my daughter was born 3.5 weeks premature following my water breaking due to infection.

  38. Christina says:

    Absolutely yes! I personally don’t understand why anyone would be grossed out by it… I’m grossed out by the thought of feeding an infant with over-processed, reconstituted milk-substance from a completely unrelated species that is a grazing, cud-chewing animal. Milk from a healthy human has GOT to be a better choice in all situations.

  39. MrsJ555 says:

    Under the circumstances described (testing and pasteurization) I would absolutely use donated breast milk. However, I would not accept raw milk from a stranger under other conditions. There would be no way of knowing whether that person used drugs, or if the milk was properly refrigerated.

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